Campaign of the Month: April 2019

First Blight

Episode #115

They landed. It's a short sentence, but contained a lot of incident.

05.04.841–06.04.841 TE – Great Bear Lake & Raven’s Roost
Revas, Rhea, Sargis, Valeria
Title by Terry Pratchett

Dakosaurus

GREAT BEAR LAKE

Thunderday, 05.04.841 TE
Morning

Taking the first breath of fresh air after their brief foray into the chilling manor and terrifying tower, the Heartbreaker Gang patch up their wounds and give themselves a moment to think. Arriving back amongst the grass and trees so close to Great Bear Lake is a welcome sight after Denerim. And though the group came back mostly unharmed, Ardis on the other hand, finds himself at a loss when it comes to his current state of being.

Ardis’ scales shine with black iridescence, sending a cascade of light across Revas’ skin as he tries to comfort him in his moment of uncertainty and confusion. No longer was Ardis the tanned and beautifully muscled half elf he once was, instead the hulking draconic figure now sits dejected and lost next to Revas.

Meanwhile, focused on the task set before her, Rhea begins to doff her armor and prepares to go for a swim to gather the plants she needs for her ritual. Her time spent in Bastion and traveling the seas on her father’s ship has made her more than well equipped to dive into the depths of the sea, nevermind a still lake. Her confidence in her ability is strong as usual and, though she throws a distrustful glance back at Leonara, she strides into the waters with ease.

Holding out the books and notes she’s collected, Valeria stands near the mage in question and shows her what she’s found in Cato’s room. Though more for asking questions and trying to find out more info about what happened to Ardis and perhaps any way to reverse it, Valeria finds herself drawn to Leonara and her careful poise and stance as she eyes the party with uncertainty. Twice did Leonara come to exchange blows or words of ill omen with the Heartbreaker Gang, and in one moment she herself brought Valeria to Denerim.

It’s easy to say that tensions are high with the gang and their compatriots when it comes to such a person. But Valeria’s want to keep the peace and help those who show even the slightest hint of compassion or put effort into doing the right thing overrides any worry about what that person had done in their past. That and Leonara and her striking looks are far too easy on the eyes for someone like Valeria to ignore for even a second when they share a look and Leonara has a glint in her eye that sends the warrior stumbling over herself as she points out passages in the book she holds awkwardly in her hands.

Noting Valeria’s lack of attention, Revas steps away from Ardis and sees Valeria flinch when he suddenly appears next to Leonara. Taking out an amulet he has in his special secreted pouch, he hands it to her gently. An amulet for boosting a mage’s power, left abandoned during the burning of the tower in Denerim. She takes it, looking upon it curiously before giving him a kind nod before refocusing on the flustered Valeria and her books.

Submerged beneath the dark blue waters of the lake, Rhea welcomes the weightless freedom that comes with being here and pauses for a moment to take it in. The coolness of the water, the flow of the current just barely perceptible as it moves towards the sea down the river that passes by Raven’s Glen. Her hair dances around her, tied back just enough to not get in the way but still loose enough to feel the soothing touch of the water moving it about with a comforting gentleness she’d known at times when the sea was as smooth as glass.

She knows she has enough time to spare, the air in her lungs will last long enough to gather these plants and then some, so why worry. She descends lightly, her eyes scanning the waving vegetation as smaller fish scatter as she gets close. The pale green leaves catch her attention as she brushes past a large stone, and she prepares the tools she carried with her into the depths.

It takes her a few moments, the plant’s roots sift deep into the mud and sediment and prove to be a little tougher than expected. After gathering the three plants she needs she prepares to swim back to the surface, if a bit reluctantly, when a large moving shadow catches her attention.

If she wasn’t as used to the levels of light within water, she might have written it off as a trick of the light, but she sees it moving faster towards her and with well trained reactions she swims quickly to the surface and back towards shore. Even those with plenty of experience swimming know better than to let unknown beings of the deep get too close. She swims and gets halfway back to shore again before risking a look back to try and figure out if the creature is friend or foe.

Meanwhile, at shore, several minutes pass as Rhea dives down into the water. The rest of the gang waits before heading home to recollect themselves in the comfort of Raven’s Roost, whiling away the minutes with books and whispered conversation. This, however, can only keep one’s attention for so long, especially with everything so quiet and still, and so Sargis is the first to take the opportunity to use this new mage in the way the gang has become well acquainted with. For mages more often than not have knowledge of items and their magic that still leaves the gang uncertain after the incident with Rhea in Caer Bronach.

He has her look over his daggers, a new acquisition amongst many. And though he isn’t one to dwell too much on an item’s magic qualities, if they’re going to be on his person and look fancy along with his outfit then better to not have them be cursed after all. He frowns in disappointment as Leonara looks them over carefully and shakes her head, saying that they don’t appear to be magical or cursed in any way from what she can tell. Maybe one day he’ll find that little trick up his sleeve item to use in a grand battle as a way to have the final laugh against a villain or foe. For now his wit will have to do.

Switching into an easy conversation with Valeria after noticing her usual floundering, Sargis speaks with her and Leonara about what they found in Denerim. Revas meanwhile has moved away from the trio and found a tree to lean on near Ardis to watch over him.The new draak looks down at his claws, flexing them and eyeing the nails with an expression Revas finds harder to read than he’s used to. The occasional tail tip flicks catch both of them off guard, and a small sound Revas makes has Ardis looking for him with a questioning look in his eyes.

Quickly looking away, Revas tries to look casual as a sense of unease starts to build in his gut between the shock and flutters of happiness at seeing Ardis in any state other than death as he first believed. Upon doing so however, he sees the faint ripples in the water and a quickly moving Rhea trying to swim away from him that puts him right back on high alert and moving away from the love of his life to address the situation at hand.

Surging through the waters towards Rhea, the four shadows catch up with her surprisingly quickly. Even with her head start one manages to dig its teeth into her calf before she manages to pull away and quickly makes her way to the shore. Behind her, the creatures refuse to stop after getting a taste for her blood, and the toothy maws, followed by smooth looking bodies, launch themselves to shore and begin their assault on Rhea and the Heartbreaker Gang in force.

The battle doesn’t take too long, as three dakosauri (which are native to Tevinter) go down now that they’re on shore and much slower because of it. They get in a few solid bites, more blood spilling onto the mud and rocks of the shore as the gang fights them off. But as the last of the creatures slips beneath the water’s surface after the rest of its pod lays lifeless on the shore, the gang turns towards their usual business.

Blades come out, offered containers and ways to carry off their bounty are handed to Revas and the skinning begins while Leonara watches from the safety of the trees silently. The group is efficient in their tasks, making quick work of the creatures, whose skin turns out to be rough like sandpaper, before returning to their usual state of casual calm. It’s quite a sight to those not used to the gang’s want for new materials even if they have no particular use for it at the time. Even Ardis watches on questioningly after settling back down once he sees that Revas is safe.

Returning to the woods, the group decides to camp here for the night, not able to return to Wutherford or get back home before nightfall. They set up camp within a more covered thicket of trees and try to relax as best they can as they start a low fire and rest by their tents before sleep. During this time, Valeria sits down with the mirror shard as she does most evenings and speaks to Arna and Faustus just to make sure everything is okay back home. As she talks to them, Rhea takes out her elvhen stone to check on her son Liam. It has become a nightly ritual at this point to have the babysitter hold the stone up to little Liam so Rhea can hear his soft breathing or his tiny babbles and cries. But tonight, she hears nothing when she activates it and holds it up to her ear.

Panic starts to thrum through Rhea’s heart as she quickly scrambles over to Valeria and the mirror shard to have her sign to those back home and ask if Liam is okay. According to Faustus and Arna, the wet nurse had left the keep in a hurry, running off in the early morning hours with the other half of the stone while leaving baby Liam without a caretaker until someone heard his cries. Hearing this, Rhea takes the elvhen stone and sends a few curses into it and the wet nurse who ran away, but after calming down she takes a breath and asks for Bert to look after Liam until they get home. The wet nurse would have to be dealt with later, but Liam’s wellbeing overrides her anger at such a betrayal for now.

While Valeria goes back to her conversation with the duo on the other side, Rhea sits down to look through the books she found while in the mansion and tower in Denerim. She reads them by firelight, looking over the covers and skimming over the pages and contents to try and figure out what knowledge they might all offer. “A Magister’s Guide to Blood Rituals” is hidden away out of sight to be looked at later, while a book about keeping slaves is fed to the fire almost immediately. The strange book bound in human skin however doesn’t meet such a fate as the hair on the back of her neck rises as she notes the title “Behind The Wall.” She spends most of the evening pouring over these tomes before calling it quits for the night and settling into her tent to try and rest after such a wild day.

Seeing the others busy with other tasks, Sargis decides to try his hand at cooking dakosaurus meat. The carefree ease in which he adds ingredients and stirs the small pot leaves Valeria a little bit worried about how it will turn out, but quickly the smell of it wafts about camp and gives the air a pleasant feel about it. Sargis and Valeria talk, and soon enough he weaves a tale about a sailor he once knew that nearly burned their eyebrows off trying to make a rum version of this on a ship he’d once been on.As the finishing touches go in and a secret splash of herbs, the stew becomes a marvel to behold, and he and Valeria enjoy a bowl of it while they chat and the others eat their rations for the evening.

After a time, stepping away from Ardis as he awkwardly tries to figure out how to eat in his new body, Revas walks over to Val and sits next to her while Sargis and Rhea tell stories back and forth about the sea and adventures they’ve had. He’s quiet for a time as they sit in companionable silence before he catches her attention with a gentle nudge of a rock on the ground away from the fire. She turns to him, curious as she studies his expression.

The words he says next take her slightly off guard but she listens quietly as he apologizes about the events earlier. When things were starting to get rough in a conversation with Leonara and Rhea about the right of property, Revas was the one to speak out loudly about this and to want to end the arguing then and there. To this Valeria nods and speaks from the heart saying that with all the danger and fear that had gone on that day that as long as Ardis was back and everyone was safe that it was fine to let one feel and express it even if it might hurt at the time.

The gang rests, recollects, and dreams. The safety of their tents and being so close to home helps them feel more at ease. Though the minds of Ardis and Leonara find themselves stirring despite their attempts to sleep. What would their future hold? What did all this change mean? It’s hard to see the future with the present so dark and uncertain before you. Despite their difficulty seeing more than the whirling chaos of nightmares or memories, they too awake to a new morning after being lulled to sleep by the beating thrum of dragon wing.


RAVEN’S ROOST

Fireday, 06.04.841 TE
Morning

A quick breakfast and a long, awkward, trip later and the gang arrives home to the welcoming arms of their friends and family. It doesn’t take long for the gang to split and go their separate ways the second they step foot on familiar soil, business to be done and some much needed love and attention would do the gang good after such a rushed trip.

Rhea goes off to meet with some people and check in on her son after the trouble with the wet nurse. Revas, on the other hand, goes with Ardis to get him checked out by Gale. Both feel worry but for two very different reasons, the same as resentment directed at the one that caused the troubles they currently face.

Ardis will be getting help with his memory as Gale tries to guide him, though he seems a bit apprehensive about doing so. His reluctance becomes more apparent when Revas stands there silently while Gale speaks and mentions his need to step away and inform the group what’s going on. It takes a few moments but after Revas promises to be back as soon as possible Ardis lets go of his hand and the elf disappears from sight.

While this happens, Rhea has checked up on Liam and begun her search of her room. The Wet nurse may have absconded with the elvhen stone, but the possibility of any other missing items or harmful things to baby Liam is not worth risking. She takes care of it herself, knowing her belongings well enough to be thorough but keep it clean. After a good search, she finally feels herself relax and goes to collect Liam to feel his comforting warmth and loving coos. Even with him being so young, the time he seems truly at peace is in his mother’s arms. And the two take comfort in one another as they enjoy the day together in peace.

Sargis, with gifts in his bag and a smile on his face makes his way to Dora’s shop. Though they never ask it of him, Sargis almost always arrives with him a gift and a few good stories to tell Cole and Dora about the gang’s travels. This time his trinket of choice is a little bracelet, the jingling silver shell charms that he picked up in Wutherford. Just at hearing it, the excited look in Cole’s eyes is worth its weight in gold and Dora’s smile lights up the room while she finishes up her work to listen to the stories as Cole looks up at uncle Sargis with a grin and stars in her eyes. As Sargis speaks, the words that speak from the heart are that to him, Dora and Cole are practically family. And that sentiment carries weight as they continue chatting late into the evening.

Valeria sees Leonara off to the safety of the stone walls of Raven’s Roost, making sure that she has some accommodations ready for her before stepping away to Arna and her welcoming hug. The words of love and affirmations flow between them with ease and Valeria gets started explaining some of what had happened as they head off towards the meeting.

The unusual thing about this particular meeting is that the gang themselves hadn’t called it. Though usually they get together to talk over what had happened, Arna or Faustus are the ones who gather the gang together for a debriefing before they scatter to the four winds to hang out or get their own work done. This time however, a guest arrived before the gang got back, and they are ready with back up and a look in their eye that meant they means business. Lady Affraic surveys the group and focuses her attention on Valeria who has a hard time looking her in the eye.

When Revas gave information about the potions for the Blight to the people of Eagle-Eye Hold, Lady Affraic was the first to know about Revas’ call for help from Bela. And because the group hadn’t checked in with Lady Affraic beforehand, the gang is in a lot of trouble. This sort of information has to be kept under wraps, at least for now, and in giving the recipe to the Avvar, it means that Bela’s secret recipe could get out of hand faster than she is prepared for. With Valeria knighted under Lady Affraic’s name, it means that any problems the gang brings upon her or the Order is to be brought up with her specifically as well as the person involved.

Despite her unhappiness about the situation however, she seems willing to let things go for the most part and only requires some form of public punishment for Revas and Valeria. She can’t leave things be if she wants to keep order amongst the ranks, and a recruit like Valeria is no exception to this rule. The two members of the Heartbreaker Gang would have to make a public apology, a lesser sentence that Valeria welcomes but Revas frowns at heavily.

After talking of crime and punishment, they discuss Denerim and their findings as well as triumphs while getting Ardis back. And talk of the Avvar reaches Lady Affraic’s ears directly, much to her unhappiness at such a deal as handing over Ketilbiorn Hold and solidifying a relationship with the Avvar in the first place. Mention of Arl Conobar, Arlessa Sheridan, Arlessa Teagan, and Jainen is also made, with Jainen being the most pressing issue at the time. Though she wishes not to show her direct hand in the attack on Jainen, Lady Affraic claims the islands will be her prize should the battle against Magistra Lutatia be won. With that, she decides the conversation has come to an end before she leaves the war room to peruse Raven’s Roost’s wine storage for the growing headache she now feels.

A few more words of dislike for the current situation are heard, a semi-conspiratorial glance spreading around the Heartbreaker Gang like wildfire. They aren’t ones to take being told what to do very well, but considering the circumstances they let things slide and better plan their trip to Jainen as the opportunity to deal with that Magistra has presented itself finally. One less member of the Liberatori could mean a breath of peace for the gang and their loved ones, but for now they adjourn the meeting to take some time to themselves.

Home at last with Ardis safe and sound, the Heartbreaker Gang soaks in the sunshine and gives themselves a moment to breathe and feel after that daunting venture into Denerim. New friends and old are now protected within the lands of Raven’s Glen, but not all seems to be going well for them and the gang as battle plans are drawn and strange looks are thrown their way. Would Ardis regain his memories properly? Would Leonara find acceptance within the walls of Raven’s Roost? The gang seeks the answers to this and more, as the trouble with the LIberatori is only just getting warmed up.

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